72nd Place with Grixis Control at GP Shizuoka
By Justin Ventura
G’day Sports Fans!
I’m back writing after a two year hiatus, time flies ay. Then I was the ape in the room writing about this newish deck called “BR Reanimator.” Today I’m writing a tournament report about being a big brain Grixis Control player.
For a long time I’ve wanted to go to Japan, if for nothing more than all the weeb shit I could do there. Going to Japan and travelling by myself for the first time was the personal highlight of my 2018 and the best thing that I did in 2018. I learnt a lot about myself, about magic and I hope I can convey some of that in this report.
Leading up to the GP I was testing with the Melbourne Team for the East Coast Legacy Championship that was being hosted by General Games, being the only one who could be bothered sleeving up Grixis Control. No one in the team had chosen Grixis Control but they wanted to test the matchup and my homie Steven Stamopoulos invited me over (thanks bro ❤ ^_^).
During the play testing I learnt some good lessons; play with patience and maximise your chances at sending off a turn 2 Hymn to Tourach.
Much of my prep for this GP was determining what deck I wanted to play and feeling that Rug Delver was unplayable. Prior to the Deathrite Shaman ban I was playing Grixis Delver and post-ban I was usually playing Rug Delver. However, throughout the side events of GP Melbourne 2018 I encountered several difficulties and put up my worst performances with RUG, ever. I used the small and annoying 3 round side events to determine
1: if RUG was good and;
2: which creature configuration to run: the old school 4 Tarmogoyfs or the JA/Sean Brown approved 2 True-Names and 2 Hooting Mandrills.
I found I did better with Goyf versions on the day as it let me close the games out quicker than True-Name and admittedly it was a version I was more comfortable with. The overall performance of the deck however didn’t feel that great with what I versed. The more I thought about it the less confident I felt with RUG. Two days before leaving for Japan and I was in full crisis mode, having no clue what deck I was going to play. I originally had no intention of playing Grixis Control, soley because I didn’t want to play the mirror and have issues about going to time. I did know however that the deck was very good and so decided to make my decision in Japan. I brought RUG delver, Grixis Delver and Grixis Control with me.
A few days into my Japan and while chilling in my Osaka room after having kicked out the bevy of beautiful japanese women I had brought home, I sleeved up Grixis Delver cards and started shuffling up a few hands. I didn’t like the hands the deck was giving me and decided against it. I had played Grixis Delver at a weekly in Melbourne and put it down as I thought to myself that it just felt worse than both Rug Delver and Grixis Control. Not really feeling much love for Rug Delver (basically near unplayable) and not liking the look of Grixis Delver, I was left with my last option.
GP Decklist / Last Chance Qualifier Decklist – Justin Ventura
2 Gurmag Angler
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Baleful Strix
4 Brainstorm (note from the editor – this is important)
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Fatal Push
4 Force of Will
3 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Lightning Bolt
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
3 Hymn to Tourach
3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
1 Pithing Needle
2 Blood Moon
1 Red Elemental Blast
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Marsh Casualties
1 Toxic Deluge
This list was essentially copied off the internet and is fairly standard. Outside of changing the 3rd Pyroblast to a Red Elemental Blast, I made shit all in the way of change. I did consider playing a True-Name over the Dreadbore but decided against it, putting trust in the presumably smarter deckbuilder. This was the list I was testing with the Melbourne team and figured if it worked then it would probably work out now.
The Last Chance Trials
There was a rough start to the day by our hero, getting aped by Show and Tell in round 1. I did however make a mistake and a learnt a valuable lesson in playing the deck and the patience required to play the deck.
In game 3 against our ape-friend, I went for a Kolaghan’s Command (2 damage + discard) for no real reason. I had two red elemental blasts and a Force of Will in hand. I could have easily countered his Show and Tell by just holding up the counter magic but instead I didn’t and I lost. FeelsBadMan. Training wheels I guess. The lesson of that tournament was “it’s called grixis control for a reason.”
My first round opponent was on Eldrazi beats. This is a fairly good matchup for G.Control, with Baleful Strix to kill all their shit and Kolaghan’s Command to deal with their artifact haymakers. There are of course the risks that they can overwhelmed you with numerous and fast Wastelands, Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers, but luckily that didn’t happen for me. I ended up just Blood Mooning him and that was all she wrote.
In between rounds I caught up with Sean O’Brien of the famed Tusk Talk (#FreeNedleeds) and we chatted a bit about my best mate Steve as well as the Tusk Talk podcast and how much I missed it. All in all a great chap to speak to.
My next round was a bye. I thought this was a mistake in the pairings… it turns out that in single elimination tournaments with odd numbers of people there would be byes awarded. Deece+.
My third round was against Miracles. Game one I did the Grixis thing of casting hand disruption spells and dropping planeswalkers. Game 2 I thoughtseized him early and saw a Baneslayer Angel which I remarked was “pretty sick.” I took his only cantrip which left him with nothing to do on turn 1, feeling that I would easily be able to deal with the angel eventually…. I did not deal with the angel eventually and he was able to overcome the hand disruption and win this game.
Game 3 was the same as game 1. A nice 3-0 start.
Round 4 was against 12Post with my opponent dropping a turn one Chalice.
Without a Kolaghan’s Command in sight and my opponent dropping artifacts freely I was starting to get nervous. Mercifully my opponent was reliant on multiple Ancient Tombs to power out his deck which had greatly reduced his life total.
A topdecked Wurmcoil Engine threatened trouble but I showed him who the more powerful wizard was and top decked myself a basic island to slam down a Jacey Boi.
I down ticked Jace bouncing the Wurmcoil. He cast it again and passed the turn to which I bounced again. Unsurprisingly he cast it again.
By this point he was down to a measly 4 life when I drew a Kolagan’s Command to deal with the Chalice on 1, allowing me to send a lethal Bolt upstairs.
Not having much experience with the matchup I figured that my gameplan for the next game would be to establish a board of Planeswalkers and ride them to the big W.
My opponent played a Phyrexian Revoker naming Jace, the Mind sculptor which I answered with a Liliana, the Last Hope tick up, and just started beating down with Gurmag and Snapcasters. The combination of Jace, Liliana and beat sticks was too much for my opponent and he extended the hand!
I now joined Graham King in the #2ByeGang which cemented my decision to play Grixis Control. I submitted the exact same list for the following day.
This good start to the tournament was followed up with some Japanese food for dinner
with the rest of the Melbourne crew (although I think they just call it “food” over there).
Jay ruining my group shot smh.
By now you’re probably wondering what the F*** the title of this report being “Piss. Drink. Mrs. Robinson” means. If you haven’t, allow me to elaborate anyway.
While getting ready in them morning I was listening to Philip DeFranco on YouTube and he was talking about Tommy Robinson. That reminded me of the song Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel. Walking to the GP I decided to put on Mrs. Robinson and discovered that it helped me relax and I found myself enjoying the walk to the GP. During the event I decided that after every round I was going to take a drink of water so to stay hydrated which of course lead to me going to the bathroom after every round. When I had some time left in between rounds I would listen to Mrs. Robinson. Eventually I got into this weird groove of pissing, drinking and listening to Mrs. Robinson.
Even with my two byes I still wanted to get to the tournament hall early to ensure that there were no problems. This also let me scope out the room. From what I could tell there was a lot of Grixis Control, Miracles and Sneak and Show.
I didn’t take detailed notes but I’ll just highlight the cool parts of the day.
GP DAY 1
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: Miracles
I win in turns with at the last possible moment, mercifully avoiding the bye bracket. Standard grixis affair really, hand disruption and planeswalkers seem to get the job done most of the time.
Piss. Drink. Mrs. Robinson first started here.
Result: 2-1 Win, 3-0 in the tournament.
And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…
Round 4: Eldrazi Aggro
I remember this match taking a while but I got there similarly as I had in the trial, establishing a board of Strix and make it impossible for my opponent to attack.
Result: 2-1 Win, 4-0 in the tournament.
Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)…
Round 5: Slow Depths
I win game one off of having removal at the right time, game two he turbo’d me and game 3 I had the edicts at the right time.
Result: 2-1 Win, 5-0 in the tournament.
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson…
Round 6: Grixis Control
I crush this mirror by curving out with planeswalkers. With this I have made my first day two of a GP and I couldn’t be more excited.
Result: 2-0 Win, 6-0 in the tournament.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray…
Round 7: Grixis Delver
I lose game 1 to some top decked burn from my opponent and game 2 is all one sided as my hand disruption slows him down too much.
In Game 3 my opponent looks at my graveyard two times in a row as I starts my turn. I am at 5 life and he has a Gurmag in play.
In my draw step my opponent then looks at my graveyard a 3rd time, which prompts the judge to say something to my opponent. I also joined in and told him to stop looking at my graveyard because I thought he was wasting time. The judge tells me off for telling my opponent off, because he was already telling my opponent off. (Editor’s note – you should have told the judge off for telling you off for telling the opponent off just to complete the trifecta of everyone being told off.) Anyway in my draw step my opponent casts Surgical Extraction targeting my Baleful Strix in my graveyard. Luckily for me my draw step was a Kolaghan’s Command. I quickly cast it only to discover that in my haste I’d neglecting to leave a black source to actually cast the Strix.
There were three things that happened here which I learnt from.
1: Be patient;
2: In a three colour deck it’s probably important how you tap your mana.
3: Try not to get tilted. I will admit that this can be a big flaw in my game. Local Melbournian Nathan Bassar talked to me after the game about how amazing I was doing and how I shouldn’t get tilted by the mistake.
Even the smallest of talks can mean so much – thanks Nathan 🙂
A piss, a drink, some Mrs. Robinson and I was ready to keep going.
Result: 2-1 Loss, 6-1 in the tournament.
We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files…
Round 8: ANT
My opponent is wearing a JoJo Bizarre Adventure Jacket, which is one of my favourite non-pornographic cartoons for adults. I try to break by talking about JoJo only to be reminded that I don’t speak Japanese.
I win game 1 off of hand disruption into hand disruption into hand disruption + a Gurmag, but lose the next two: I can’t beat a City of Solitude from my opponent in Game 2 and in Game 3 I lose despite curving out a Thoughtseize into a Hymn to Tourach into a Snap-Thoughtseize.
Loss: 1-2, 6-2 in tournament.
We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
As much I was tilted at myself for the mistakes that cost me the last two rounds, I could not have been more excited at making my first day 2 of a Grand Prix! Australia is only afforded the *luxuries* of Limited and Modern Grand Prix from Wizards and that is enough said. To make day 2 of a format I love, in a country where I don’t speak the language made me ecstatic at the overall result. Hanging out with some of the other Melbournians at the end of day one and being fed a steady stream of comfy compliments made the misplays sting far less.
With a meal in my belly, I head off to sleep and dream of winning a GP and hitting the fattest dab on camera when I win. *FeelsGoodMan*
GP DAY 2 (4-2-1)
I decided that I’m going to continue the Piss. Drink. Mrs. Robinson routine since it worked so well in Day 1. I’m superstitious, what can I say.
Round 9: Aluren
Game 1 I win thanks to heavy hand disruption and Game 2 I am unable to make any progress as he just out grinds me.
Game 3 I win thanks to a topdecked Fatal Push which is able to deal with what would have been an otherwise insurmountable Scavenging Ooze. He draws dead after the push. Props to my opponent, he was a really fun guy to play with.
Result: 2-1 Win, 7-2 in tournament.
Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes…
Round 10: Eldrazi Aggro
I win a fairly one-sided Game 1 which I can’t even pretend is worth you reading about so I won’t bore you further.
Game 2 however I want to talk about. The state of the game is as follows.
I have a Blood Moon and Liliana of the Last Hope in play, my opponent has an Eye of Ugin with 7 other lands in play and a Chalice set to two. He calls over a Judge and they begin talking in a language that is not English or Maltese and therefore outside of the realm of my understanding. My opponent then plays a 2nd Eye of Ugin and passes the turn. I assume that he’s playing to outs of drawing an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to remove the Blood Moon and Liliana.
I think this is weird but don’t do much else, as I made an ass of u n me and assumed that he called the judge to ask about this ruling. I draw for my turn, tick up my Lilliana and begin to think for about my options for the rest of the turn. I then have a forest from the tree’s moment, and call a judge asking about the interaction between Blood Moon and Legendary Lands. The head judge asks us both questions and I give my side of the story as above. I tell him my assumption was that he asked the judge this interaction the judge had either given him a miss ruling or he didn’t ask the right question to the judge and that was why he played the 2nd Eye of Ugin.
It came to light that my opponent had asked the judge if he *could* play the second Eye of Ugin, which he very much could do… but the question that needed to be asked I suppose was “what happens if I play 2 Eye of Ugins lol”. (Yet another annoying intrusion from the editor – I really detest this about Magic Judging. Judges should be giving directions that help. Giving completely literal answers to questions like this just muddle the issue and can actually assist potential cheaters by doing so. Was this opponent trying to cheat Justin? I like to think probably not, but how can one know with certainty? By asking the judge a question and saying “I interpreted this to mean Legend layers no longer apply because the Judge said I could play it”, he is given plausible deniability if the issue of cheating comes up. /Rant)
Eventually my opponent gets a GRV and we proceed with the match. My opponent then plays a Ratchet Bomb, which I Force and eventually win with a Lilianna ultimate. After the match some onlookers pointed out that he cast a Ratchet Bomb (CMC2) into his own chalice on two and he did not announce it. The head judge who was still next to us warned my opponent to please be more careful, as since the match was over there was nothing he could do.
This match was weird, I don’t think he was trying to cheat me with the Eye of Ugin, but him missing his own beneficial chalice trigger…. I don’t know if that was a blantat cheat or he completely forgot that he had it on two because #ChaliceApes.
Result: 2-0 Win, 8-2 in tournament.
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home…
Round 11: Food Chain
I win game 1 by getting a wide board of Baleful Strix to protect the Planeswalkers while his deck failed to cough up a Walking Ballista. Game 2 he never found green mana which made it the game much easier.
I did however almost lose this game to an errant judge ruling… I had the game pretty much locked up and we were essentially going through the motions. When drawing for my turn I accidentally picked up the 2nd card from my library instead of the top card. I immediately call a judge, and explain the situation. I know the ruling as I have done this before (I get sweaty hands which often leads me to accidentally picking up the 2nd card). The ruling is supposed to be that I draw my card for turn, shuffle my library and I get a looking at extra cards warning. The judge rules that this is a automatic game loss and we will be going to game 3….
My heart sank, I was so close to winning this horrible matchup and it was going to be taken away from me due to a bad ruling. However the other judge quickly corrects him and tells him that it was indeed as I knew it was. Crisis averted folks! Piss. Drink. Mrs. Robison
Result: 2-0 Win, 9-2 in tournament.
And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…
Round 12: Slow Depths
We trade the first two games. In game 3 I play a blood moon and my opponent plays a choke. I call the judge asking if I can I untap my blue-duals (underground sea, volcanic island) with a Choke & Blood Moon in play and he says yes. I eventually navigate my way to the win in the usual fashion with timely Edicts and Planeswalkers.
Result: 2-1 Win, 10-2 in tournament.
Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)…
Round 13: Grixis Control
My opponent and I had been sitting next to each other for much of the day and we both knew what the other was on. His deck was all foil with FBB duals. Nice.
Game 1 I win due to planeswalkers and hand disruption, Game 2 he crushes me with planeswalkers and hand disruption and game 3 goes to time because well… it’s the mirror. We draw the game and I now know that I need to win out to have a chance at making top 8.
Result: 1-1-1 draw, 10-2-1 in tournament.
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson…
Round 14: Dragon Stimpy
I keep a risky hand that I probably should have Mulliganed, but due to either cockiness or just not wanting to mulligan I kept a hand of 5 fetchlands, Ponder and Jace. My opponent opens with a turn 1 Blood Moon. Oop.
I draw an Island, shuffle a Ponder and draw. My opponent follows up with a Chalice on 1. I get my head caved in by a Hazoret and a various assortment of otherwise unplayable red creatures.
Game 2 and deep in trenches made of salt I don’t think about my turn 1 play. In my hand I have a bunch of fetches, an island and spells. Instead of fetching a second Blue Source, I instead lead on the Island I have in hand and Ponder. He jams a Blood Moon and Chalice on 1 again. He lets me resolve a cheeky Brainstorm but I see nothing but a bunch of now dead cards and lose quickly after. I don’t even de-sideboard from the tilt of being done in by a cheeseball deck.
The only redeeming part of this match was afterwards I sent some messages to a friend, telling him of our hero’s devastating loss at the hands of a chalice ape and my phone autocorrecting stompy to stimpy. Henceforth this deck will now be known as Dragon Stimpy. Pic Related.
Result: 0-2 Loss, 10-3-1 in tournament.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray…
Round 15: Grixis Delver
They post the standings before the last round, and I am sitting at 44th place. A win puts me in top 32 and I have a renewed fire in winning.
Game 1 my opponent lands two Bitterblossoms and I am desperately trying to cantrip into a Liliana the last hope to save my dwindling life total. I eventually draw a Toxic Deluge. You would think this would be a stellar draw and objectively it is probably the best draw – except that this is a sideboard card and not supposed to be in my maindeck. I call a judge and explain what had happened. I then had to explain it again to the head judge and eventually we got a ruling. He gave me a warning for it, we fix the cards, gives us a 7-minute extension and says I don’t get to draw for my turn which I’m not even sure is the right call.. I eventually lose to the onslaught of faeries.
Game 2 I win with myself removing literally everything that came down from him and just beating with 1/1 owls.
Game 3 is a slogfest with both of us trading resources and throwing everything we have at each other. Time in the round was called and I knew I had no chance of winning in final turns. My only hope of a top 64 result lay in a draw and hoping for the best however I needed to draw removal to even play to that. My draw for the turn was not removal and I extended the hand and congratulated my opponent.
Result: 1-2 Loss
Final Tournament Result: 10-4-1
I wait for the final pairings to come up, I was hoping even with the loss I would still cash the GP. I wait nervously. Eventually the post the pairings….
72nd Place Justin Ventura, 31 Points, 10-4-1
My heart sunk. So overwhelmed with a mix of contradictory emotions I went outside to take the moment for myself and try to clear my head.
As tears welled in my eyes, it dawned on me that I had so many friends cheering me on back home who were sending me messages of encouragement and even praying literally for a win. Despite wanting to well in self-pity, the bad feels of losing began to fade.
And hey there’s always a silver lining. My 72nd place gave me my first Pro-Point which means that as I am now called, I can forever and officially be known as “Pro Player” Justin Ventura.
Justin “Pro Player Ventura”
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